Drone market prepares for take-off after whirl of patents

A steep rise in patents for drone technology are likely to herald their arrival in many industries beyond deliveries of online parcels - 2018 Venturelli

Fictional depictions of the 21st century often imagined the skies filled with drones but nearly two decades in, this prediction seems far from reality.

Even the worlds mightiest of retailers, Amazon, has only trialled deliveries by drone. But new data suggests we could be on the cusp of change and those fanciful visions of the future might be about to finally take off.

Data from the World Intellectual Property Office for the 2016-17 financial year shows patents filed for technology related to drones hit a new high of 5,301 more than quadrupling from the 1,242 the prior year.

Credit for technological advancement is usually given to Silicon Valley but the crucial factor behind the spike is a deluge of patent filings from China. 

Gwilym Roberts, partner at Kilburn & Strode and author of A Practical Guide to Drafting Patents, said the spike suggested major developments were likely in the next few years. 

Filing a patent now represents people banking on the future, he says. Patents have a 20-year life so it is a land grab for future technologies.

Chinese technicians work on a droneCredit:  Xinhua

Major recent drone announcements have come from the likes of Amazon and delivery giant UPS. In December 2016, the online retailer started a drone delivery trial in the UK with two shoppers receiving their items by drone.

And the foll....

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